Posted: 10:37 am Sunday, May 1st, 2011
By Post Staff
The Dolphins finished 30th in the NFL in points scored last season (17.3 per game), but went a long way toward improving their offense in this weekend’s NFL Draft by drafting a new center, running back, speed receiver and H-back with consecutive picks.
The one position they didn’t address, you may have noticed? Quarterback. Twelve were picked over the weekend, none by Miami.
“The board didn’t fall right for us to pick up a quarterback,” general manager Jeff Ireland said after the draft. “I didn’t feel like we were desperate for one, and so we didn’t adjust our board to try to go after one.”
Ireland didn’t feel desperate for a quarterback even though Chad Henne and Tom Brandstater are the only ones currently under contract for 2011. He didn’t feel desperate for a quarterback even with Henne finishing with 15 touchdowns against 19 interceptions in 2010, ranking 26th in the NFL in passer rating (75.4) and 24th in yards per attempt (6.7).
To be clear, the Dolphins aren’t simply handing Henne the keys to the offense like they did last offseason. “Obviously what we want to do, and I’ve made this perfectly clear, is to have competition at every position,” head coach Tony Sparano said after the draft.
But the Dolphins felt that Ryan Mallett, who slid to the third round, wasn’t the answer. Or Blaine Gabbert, who was surprisingly available with the 10th pick. Or Christian Ponder (they could’ve traded up for him but didn’t), Ricky Stanzi, Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick. The Dolphins didn’t even take a flier on a late-round QB like Tyler Yates or Nathan Enderle.
The the goal of the draft, instead, was to improve the pieces around Henne instead of starting over at the position with another rookie.
“By building around the players that you have in the building right now, I think that certainly helps you,” Sparano said. “Our situation is now different than it was when we went into the draft at the quarterback position.”
Tyler Thigpen may also return, depending on the league rules put in place for 2011. But the Dolphins will still look to free agency for help at quarterback, Ireland said, and perhaps try to trade for a veteran.
Here is a look at their options, and our thoughts on whether they will land in Miami:
* Vince Young: Is supposed to be released by the Titans whenever the league year begins, but we can’t imagine the Dolphins, who are in win-now mode, taking a chance on Young and all of his off-field issues.
* Carson Palmer: The Bengals remain steadfast in their stance to not trade or release Palmer, but that may soften after the team drafted Dalton high in the second round. Still, it will be hard to imagine the Dolphins giving up the high draft pick(s) it will require to land him via trade, or Palmer picking Miami as his destination over west coast options like QB-needy Arizona (closer to his Southern California home) or Seattle (to reunite with his college coach, Pete Carroll).
* Kevin Kolb: The Eagles may look to deal Kolb, who is entering the final year of his contract, but the asking price will likely be high, given the importance the Eagles place on quarterback depth (especially considering Michael Vick’s injury history). Kolb will likely cost a future first-round pick, and maybe also a third-rounder, and the Dolphins likely won’t pay that price for a quarterback with only seven career starts.
* Kyle Orton: Broncos boss John Elway said over the weekend that Tim Tebow will be the team’s quarterback moving forward, so Orton could now be available via trade. Orton’s pricetag will likely be cheaper than those of Palmer and Kolb (perhaps only a second-round pick), so he could be a possibility for Miami. Brady Quinn is also a free agent, but it’s hard to see how he would be an improvement over Henne.
* Matt Hasselbeck: The longtime Seahawks quarterback is a free agent, and though he played in a West Coast offense for so many years, could be a good veteran option for Miami, who would like to find someone to play the “Chad Pennington role” to serve as a mentor and leader and give the team competent snaps should a crisis arise.
* Marc Bulger: Another veteran who could play the Pennington role, but he is already being linked to Arizona.
* Other veteran free agents: Kerry Collins, Trent Edwards, Todd Collins, Bruce Gradkowski, Matt Moore, Kellen Clemens, Billy Volek.
As you can see, the Dolphins don’t have many good options. Henne, who is 13-14 in 27 career starts, likely gives the team its best chance at winning in 2011, especially with the current lockout preventing free agents from coming in now and learning the new offense.
Sparano promised, though, that the Dolphins’ offense will not look the same next year now that the team has its new rookie weapons and a new coordinator in Brian Daboll.
“Some of you guys still have us in this ’3 yards and a cloud of dust’ thing,” Sparano said. “We’ll see.”
For a full wrap on this weekend’s draft, please check out the Dolphins On Demand Podcast with myself and ESPN 760′s Ken LaVicka.